April full of surprises for White Sox hitters

Alexei Ramirez's record-setting single. - David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Abreu stole the headlines, but there are feel-good stories up and down the lineup

With April in the books, which fact is more remarkable?

  1. The White Sox lead the league in runs scored.
  2. The White Sox did not have one game rained, snowed or frozen out.

The first is the easy and fun answer, but when you consider that the winter had the Sox whipping up their own version of "24" starring Roger Bossard as Jack Bauer, it sure seemed like they'd have a doubleheader or two on the schedule by now.

But nope -- the Sox played 29 games in 30 days, and the only off day was the league-mandated one after the opener. They slogged through some ugly weather and a slew of injuries along the way, but they came out with some awfully pretty counting stats for their efforts.

Going back to the first fact, here's just how much the 2014 White Sox separated themselves from their predecessors:

Split G PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
April 2013
25 895 89 189 33 2 31 57 215 .230 .283 .389 .672
April 2014
29 1140 154 275 58 6 32 94 254 .269 .333 .431 .764

That's remarkable in and of itself, but it isn't even confined to a small group of players. You can go up and down the lineup and find a surprise for every player, and almost all of them are pleasant ones.

In no particular order ...

Alexei Ramirez: 40 hits

Paul Konerko predicted a 200-hit season for Ramirez, which is a rather bold statement from a guy who orders his enthusiasm decaf. The Sox have only had nine 200-hit season in their entire history, and none since Albert Belle in 1998.

Ramirez built himself a cushion for regression. He's set a 223-hit pace for the season, which would be one short of Eddie Collins' franchise record, established in 1920. Collins was one of three Sox to reach the 200-hit marker that season, and Ramirez matched the feat of another one with a single on Wednesday:

Weaver finished with 208 hits that season, while Joe Jackson topped him by 10. If history holds, Ramirez stands a 66 percent chance of never playing again after this season, which should break up the infield logjam some.

Tyler Flowers: 26 singles

We know that an insane BABIP is driving his surprising offensive production, but the distribution of those hits is equally bonkers. Flowers has two doubles, one homer, and 26 singles. Last season, Flowers didn't collect his 26th single until July 25, which ended up being his fourth and final hit of that month.

Dayan Viciedo: 10 walks

Before this season, Viciedo had drawn just one walk over 118 career plate appearances in April, so 10 in 100 is a pretty stunning reversal. In fact, Viciedo had never drawn more than eight walks in any month over his career.

Captain Obvious says it remains to be seen whether Viciedo can maintain this eye, but the officer has to underscore this point, because Viciedo has never strung together two months of even average OBP work. The two times he drew eight walks, he followed them with months of zero walks and one walk.

Adam Eaton: .290/.375/.452 at home

Eaton's overall game is exactly how the White Sox envisioned it -- his production is only surprising because players acquired by the White Sox usually forget which hand is the dominant one for the first three to six months. That said, Dan Szymborski was slightly down on Eaton's prospects with the Sox because his skill set didn't project to be well-suited for U.S. Cellular Field.

So far, Eaton has collected all seven of his extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple, one homer) at home, so that seems like a fine introduction to his new surroundings.

Jose Abreu: Nine doubles

We've spent plenty of time marveling over Abreu's season-opening home run barrage, but Abreu collected his ninth two-bagger against Max Scherzer on Wednesday, and that's notable in its own right. Ever since Magglio Ordonez moved on, White Sox hitters have posted five 40-homer seasons, but just one 40-double season (Jermaine Dye, who hit 41 back in 2008).

Abreu's on pace for 50, but he's not even leading the team right now. That honor goes to Viciedo, who has collected 11.

Adam Dunn: .269 BA

Major League Baseball is enduring a batting average famine at the moment (.249 across baseball), and Dunn usually contributes to that -- especially in the early going. In his first three seasons with the White Sox, Dunn compiled a .178 average over his first month. Not so this season. Whether the Sox dreamed more about competing with him or using him for additional trade fodder, this is the start they needed him to have either way.

Conor Gillaspie: .856 OPS against righties

Like Eaton, there's nothing odd about the shape of Gillaspie's early season production (.302/.347/.413), because he has the ability to hit for a good average, with respectable strike-zone command and a little pop. The quantity in each column registers as a mild surprise, but those numbers are dragged down by a lackluster performance against lefties.

With the platoon advantage, he's hitting .326/.377/.479, and while there's a .417 BABIP running underneath it, he's making sound contact. Unfortunately, the bone bruise in his left hand will add some noise to the signal whenever regression kicks in. If Gillaspie can comfortably clear an .800 OPS against right-handed pitching, there are a whole lot of ways the Sox can use him, even if Matt Davidson figures it out and becomes a fixture himself.

Marcus Semien: 15 RBIs

I'm not afraid to admit it: I like the RBI. It's not a great measure of current value, and it's not all all predictive of future value, but when I see a good-looking number in this column, I can say, "He's probably been involved in some good times." To paraphrase Curtis Granderson, it's great to enjoy some good times.

Some context: Semien trails Abreu and Ramirez in this category, but 15 would have been good enough for a share of the team lead last April. Moreover, Gordon Beckham's had two full seasons in which he failed to collect even 10 RBIs in any month. Hell, Semien's already more than halfway to Beckham's 2013 RBI total, and it certainly feels that way.

You can dig a little deeper if you want to pinpoint the source of those RBIs, if you really detest using that stat. An easy one:

  • RISP: .321/.441/.607 over 34 PA
  • Nobody on: .161/.188/.290 over 64 PA

But for me, 15 RBIs = fun enough. And "fun enough" is the way I would describe Semien's first month, warts and all.

Alejandro De Aza: .255 OBP

De Aza's opening month is the only one that truly registers as a disappointment, at least among the regulars. That's fine, because when you see what guys like Ramirez and Flowers are pulling out of their backsides, somebody has to balance that out.

That said, De Aza's floor as a hitter is usually pretty high, and his .255 OBP is a new monthly low in his career as a full-time starter. The good news? His previous low (.272) happened last April, and he bounced back to his usual levels the rest of the way (at least at the plate).

He's shown flashes of regaining control of the strike zone, so hopefully his game will be on the way up to combat the seemingly inevitable letdowns to come elsewhere on the lineup card.

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